Best of Daily Reflections: What Helps Us Be Open to God?
Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh.”
After Jesus called twelve people to be his inner circle of apostles (6:12-16), they descended from the mountain and came to a level place. There, as the crowds gathered, Jesus delivered what is sometimes called “The Sermon on the Plain.” It is similar in many ways to The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel (Matt. 5-7), though it is much shorter and contains its own distinctive emphases. No doubt, throughout his active ministry, Jesus taught more or less the same material in different configurations and with different theological shadings. Today, and in the days to come, we want to pay close attention to the unique content of this sermon in Luke 6.
Jesus begins in an unexpected way, offering blessings to those who are poor, hungry, and weeping. In this passage, he does not refer to the “poor in spirit” or to “those who hunger and thirst for justice” as in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3, 6). Rather, he appears to be speaking of those who are literally poor and literally hungry. These are the ones who are blessed by God or even happy (the Greek word translated as “God blesses you” can simply mean “happy”).
How striking, even disturbing! How can it be that the poor, hungry, and sad are actually blessed or cheerful? Jesus offers two answers to this question, both having to do with the kingdom of God. On the one hand, those who are in difficult times now have a hopeful future. When the kingdom of God comes in full, they will no longer be poor, hungry, or sad. Such confident hope spills over into the present, so that they might be happy now.
On the other hand, those who have little in this life are often more open to God and his kingdom right now. Poverty, hunger, and sadness can help us be open to God in powerful ways. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard well-off American Christians return from mission trips to impoverished places in the world, marveling at the faith and even the joy of the people they met who have almost nothing in the way of material possessions.
Most of us, myself included, do not want to experience want or grief in this life. Yet, the teaching of Jesus in Luke 6 encourages us to allow our struggles and sufferings to open our hearts to God. When we acknowledge our need and our inadequacy, when we own our grief and discouragement, then we realize just how much we need God and his kingdom in our lives. In our weakness, we become open to God’s presence, thus experiencing his blessing and even his joy.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As you read the beginning of The Sermon on the Plain, what do the words of Jesus evoke in you? Do you feel comforted? Concerned? Confused? How has God met you in your neediness or pain? What helps you to open your heart to the Lord?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, as one who is not poor, hungry, or weeping now, I must confess that your words unsettle me. I want to live today under your reign. Does that mean I should become literally poor? Or hungry? Or make myself weep?
I do know, Lord, that when I am satisfied, I tend not to be aware of you or my need for you. You do use pain and hardship to open me up, so that you might be present in my life in new ways. Thank you, dear Lord, for redeeming the difficult experiences of life, using them to draw me closer to you.
Teach me to live today in the reality of your kingdom. May my longings draw me near to you. May my brokenness make me open to your healing. And may your blessings fill me with gratitude, rather than self-reliance. Amen.